Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Freedom from the fear of death

File:Michel de Montaigne 1.jpg

No … I’m not saying that I have it.  But, I’m closer after reading the description of the experience of Michel De Montaigne.

On a smaller, slower horse, a larger and faster horseman came barreling onto a path blindly and hit Montaigne and his mount, knocking both sprawling.  Montaigne was very badly injured internally and was seen in great agony for an extended period, clawing at his abdomen and thrashing.  He came very close to death and took quite a stretch to recover his faculties.

This, in and of itself, is not extraordinary.  What is, is the detailed recollection over the years that Montaigne gave of the experience.  Even though his body showed the greatest of distress, he experienced a languorous state of floating peace.  It had none of the religious iconography attached to it, but rather just a state of absolute bliss.

Out of this, he came to realize that our external understandings of death is what leads to fear, that dying itself is a very easy thing, a sweet, peaceful letting go.  He never feared it again and this freed him up to live much more fully than ever before.

There is a great lesson in this.  My closest was to come very near death at the age of five in the hospital.  Externally, I had a very miserable condition as the medical staff misdiagnosed and mistreated an ailment I had.  They don’t expect a child to get mononucleosis.  They screwed up the paperwork and gave me a doubly scheduled dosing of penicillin for two weeks straight.  They killed all alimentary flora and it led to the opportunistic growth of fungus throughout the alimentary canal.  I was outwardly in ghastly shape and came very close to death.

My experience as I recall it, though, was that of peaceful lassitude, not of pain or agony.  Dying appears to be much easier in many ways than living.


  1. Montaigne's essays always in my reach. Although (cruelly) I have put him right next to Blaise Pascal on my bookshelf. Yes, you may smile.

    Death itself is not to be feared. Dying (ie the process) well, I don't know. I am pretty certain I won't like it. Or be any good at it. Though, oddly, I belong to the brigade who wants to know in advance rather than being struck down in an instant or die in their sleep - no, I want to be awake, God damn it. Plan my own funeral. Tidy the house and all that.

    Until my son was born I never feared death because it would have made little difference to anyone. And obviously the dead don't know they are dead. But the possibility of my demise before my son had grown into a man was my one dark cloud hanging over a very happy 20 years. I couldn't bear the thought of him being "left" by me; him being "alone". I suppose now I can relax again (a little), afford the luxury of NOT being afraid.


    1. U, it is not the death as much as the parting from loved ones that gives me pause.

  2. You sure it wasn't the drugs Fossil? Wait - that was in the days of that foul smelling Ether wasn't it? I still remember the mask being placed over my nose & mouth after I'd had a run-in with a car whilst riding my bike.

    Refardless of the cause - chemicals induced into your brain or the great beyond, I'm certainly glad you survived to tell the tale. Death is not to be feared as it is the natural progression although Ursula has a valid point about the process.

    1. shackman, I agree with both you and Ursula and Woody Allen, who said, "I don't mind dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens!"

      As for the gas, I didn't have anything of that sort during the two weeks leading up to my eventual tonsillectomy. However, ether is what they used for the surgery and WOW!!! was I sick to my stomach after coming out of it!

  3. Having experienced two very cherished persons die while in my arms, I have no fear of dying at all. I just want it to be as pleasant as I think it was for those two, my mother and my wife.


If a post is older than 7 days, the comment will go for moderation. Sorry for that inconvenience, but it cuts down on spam and it is much better than Captcha. I promise to check the moderation folder regularly.